(via Rosemary Brown)
With a project slated to take place in New Jersey, I have deep economic and environmental concerns and am demanding answers from federal officials and stronger communication between the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). I am also asking officials for justification for the up to $200 million in federal funding that has been allocated for this project.
This project poses an economic and environmental threat to our area, not to mention the everyday impact it will have on commuters who have to travel through the Water Gap for work. Tourism and visitation will also be affected for four years as expected construction will cause major delays. Safety is always my first priority, but it is hard to support a project that will have extremely strong impacts to Pennsylvania when there appears to be no valid safety data available supporting the project need. I am requesting this safety data be presented to justify the usage of taxpayer dollars in this manner. My questions continue to include the project scope and if maintenance or less massive efforts could be done if needed. The answers should be available to taxpayers and officials. If this project is not validated, I am urging the dollars allocated to the Rockfall Mitigation Fund be transferred to our rail efforts from Andover, New Jersey, to Pennsylvania. This rail line is well overdue and would offer significant benefits to several states and their residents, especially in our region. (emphasis added)
Bob Hay of the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority shares what $200 million in federal funding could mean for the high-speed train completion from Andover, New Jersey to Delaware Water Gap/Mt. Pocono. He said that “the rail line through Northern New Jersey, known as the "Lackawanna Cutoff, " runs parallel with I-80 and is a critical infrastructure project that would bring much-needed relief to the interstate for traffic and increased safety. The first phase of the project is under construction from Port Morris to Andover. Redirecting the $200 million dollars from the I-80 Rockfall Mitigation project to the second phase of the rail project, which is from Andover to the Delaware Water Gap, would be the best return on investment of the federal funds to increase safety on I-80.”
According to NJDOT, the purpose of the proposed rockfall mitigation project on I-80 westbound is to improve the safety and mobility of the traveling public by reducing the frequency and severity of rockfall events impacting the roadway. The proposed project is located in Hardwick and Knowlton townships, Warren County, New Jersey.
I have spoken with staff from U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey and U.S. Reps. Susan Wild and Matt Cartwright’s and have also sent each a letter encouraging them to be a voice in this important discussion and help obtain these answers.